The widely acclaimed movie Interstellar portrayed a very plausible fictitious future for our planet, where dirt and dust engulfed the greenery, spelling doom for mankind. In reality, the present scenario is quite identical in China and Africa, where aggravating desertification of lands has been robbing hundreds of their livelihoods. A 2013 report by United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) revealed that in the last four decades, over one-third of earth’s cultivable land has undergone desertification and degradation, rendering it unfit for any plant life. While overpopulation, mismanagement and unsustainable farming practices remain the primary causes, climate change also plays a major role in the disaster.
However, to combat the situation, people in China and Africa are undertaking massive-scale afforestation drives, better known as ‘Great Green Wall’, backed by their governments and international organisations like the United Nations. In Africa, 20 countries have cumulatively restored over 79 million acres of deserted land.
No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank
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A similar project, dubbed as the ‘Great Green Wall of Africa’ was launched by the UNCCD in 2007, which if built, will stand tall to be the largest living structure in the world. Stretching across a distance of 8,000 km, the wall brings 20 African nations within its ambit, in the Sahel region of central Africa.
The UNCCD project page for the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel predicts it to be:
“By 2030, the ambition is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land, sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon and create a minimum of 350,000 jobs in rural areas.”
The Central African region, once a treasure trove of the planet’s greenery, has faced rapid soil degradation since the 1970s, owing to abrupt population rise, poor land usage and obviously, global warming. The comparatively lesser developed regions of Africa, where people survive entirely upon primitive farming practices, have been the worst-hit, accentuated by drought and starvation.
Among the participant countries, Nigeria has succeeded in reforesting 12 million acres of land, while Senegal has planted drought-resistant trees in over 30 million acres. Ethiopia’s contribution stands at the top, amounting to 37 million acres of reforested land.
At present, the rate of completion of the project stands at 15%, reports Good News Network.
In China, the Gobi Desert has been expanding rapidly in the past half-century. The expansion accelerated following a severe drought in the late 1980s, enhanced by rampant deforestation, overuse and poor management of natural water resources and overgrazing, reported National Geographic in 2017. The report states that nearly 27.4% of land in China has been desertified, affecting 400 million lives.
In 1978, the Chinese government launched the Three-North Shelterbelt Project, also termed as the ‘Great Green Wall’, which necessitated a plantation initiative of 100 billion trees spanning a 4,500-km long stretch bordering the arid desert. The project, which will reach its deadline in 2050, has seen the planting of 66 billion trees so far.
Not only farmers but urban citizens of China have also extended a helping hand to make this dream project a reality. Innovative methods have been adopted in the project ranging from high-tech ones like aerial seeding to grassroots-level measures like incentives for farmers who do afforestation aside from crop cultivation.
Though some criticism has surfaced regarding how far the project has succeeded in stalling the desertification, there is no denying the fact that it remains one of the largest mass participation to save the planet.
Afforestation initiatives in Brazil, Australia and Pakistan
Aside from Africa and China, countries like Brazil, Australia and Pakistan have also shown significant sincerity in the restoration of their forested lands.
Australia’s ‘20 Million Trees Program’ envisions to control the devastating impacts of climate change, while in Brazil, non-profit organisations like Conservation International and Instituto Terra are converting nearly 75,000 acres of arid regions into lush forests. In 2014, Pakistan launched its Billion Tree Tsunami campaign which is working to afforest around 8.6 lakh acres of drylands.
With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.
After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.
Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
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Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.
Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.
“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.
Direct Monetary and Material Transfer
Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.
Information till 10th April 2020:
Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
Reached 17,700 families
Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.
In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.
This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.